Category Archives for "Language Learning Tools"
I’ve written several times about Bernardo, the man who works on my family’s ranch and only speaks Spanish, and am going to follow that trend today. I called him last week to relay a message from my dad about things that needed to be done that week, including charging the display screen for a scale they have. I wasn’t sure exactly how to say this so, of course, googled it, which yielded “pantalla de la escala.” Literally, this is “screen of scale,” and while it didn’t feel quite right, I figured Bernardo was used to my flavor of gringa Spanish and would be able to interpret it.
Another reason I am usually confident that he’ll get what I’m saying is that he has a context for the the things we’re talking about since he works at the ranch every day, while I’m not as familiar with the equipment and all that since I’m not there as often. This process of communicating with Bernardo has helped me learn Spanish vocabulary, ranging from the widely applicable to the ranch specific.
One thing I love about where I work is that we have a vegetable garden. There are basil plants, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and a few other things. I think it is a great example of our company’s vibe and part of what makes it a great place to work. It has also given me one of many opportunities to learn Spanish vocabulary words in context, although you might not expect a company garden to be a hotbed of language learning.
I was recently walking by the garden, and a coworker – who is a native Spanish speaker and knows that I speak Spanish – was admiring some of what was growing. He motioned to me as I approached and said something in Spanish that I didn’t understand right away so he repeated himself. I still wasn’t getting it, so he gestured with his hands and (for some reason) I interpreted it as him holding out his hand like he was talking about something he could hold. He was saying “sandía” and hearing that, combined with the hand gesture that I took to mean something small, my mind went to Sandies, the little pecan shortbread cookies that my grandmother used to buy. So, I said, “Cookies?” I knew that didn’t make sense based on our context, but it was all I could think of.
A great way to improve your Spanish listening skills and overall fluency is repeated Spanish listening exercises. When you listen to the same content over and over, your brain gets more and more adjusted to the flow, rhythm, and structure of that audio and can thus understand and absorb more and more. I love when I find a song in Spanish that I enjoy because I know I’ll be able to listen to it many times without getting annoyed by it, which will mean more learning and improving.
My younger brother recently moved to Colorado to start a Ph.D. program (such a smarty) so we have to call, text, or Skype when we want to talk. I got to chat with him on my way home from work last week. He told me about the lab he is a TA for, how he is enjoying his classes, and how great the mountains are (so jealous). I was catching him up on my life, including writing this blog, and he said that he had gotten to read a few of my posts and enjoyed them (woo!). He said they made him think about how he needs to brush up on his language skills and how his Spanish listening comprehension is much better than his speaking ability. The next day, the tip that popped up when I opened my Pars Omni Spanish Voices software was about that very thing. Isn’t it great when that happens? Continue reading
The distinction between language acquisition and language learning may seem subtle, but I think it is important to consider when trying to improve Spanish fluency. With language acquisition, the idea is that you acquire the language naturally by being exposed to it. With language learning, you are making a conscious effort to learn the parts of the language in order to put them together into the whole. There are lots of opinions about which way is faster or better or more effective, etc. I am probably more in the language acquisition camp, but also know that at least some explicit instruction is necessary to fully grasp a new language. Recently, I opened the Pars Omni Spanish Voices software to use it and the tip of the day spoke to just this idea: “Did you know… That Voices is both a language acquisition tool and a language learning tool?”